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Free «Fossil Fuels, Energy, and Society» Essay Sample

Abstract

Mankind is deeply concerned about the problem of limited natural resources. Fuel and energy resources such as coal, natural gas, oil, and uranium greatly simplify people’s lives. With their help, a man can move faster and fly, heat his home and generate electricity. Modern technology would be unusable without energy resources. On the other hand, the world is disturbed by the rate of pollution as a result of using fuel and energy resources. Disruption of the ecological balance has become noticeable. Many plant and animal species of the underwater world and land disappear every day. This essay shows the way out of the situation. The work presents the advantages and disadvantages of different energy sources, such as oil, gas, coal, nuclear industry, and alternative energy sources. Facts and assumptions lead to the fact that the U.S. will soon be much closer to 100% transition to alternative energy, such as solar panels, wind turbines, biofuel, and energy of moving water and the heat of the planet. Economic and political factors that influence the development of all types of energy are also discussed in this paper. It reveals the importance of economic profitability, international relations, and environmental management systems. The paper analyses the decisions to overcome the energy crisis, which have already been adopted and will be announced.

Fossil Fuels, Energy, and Society

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Media increasingly scares people by talking about global warming or conversely about cold weather, ozone holes, contamination of fresh water. Warnings about global catastrophes, which could happen due to the human activity, have inculcated the fear in humans' heads. Some very courageous scientists have presented their theories and proposals for the use of alternative energy sources. As it turns out, there is a way out, and not even one. The planet calculates a dozen kinds of safe energy, if not more. Solar energy, wind energy, the technology of "clean coal", the energy of waves and flowing water, the energy from the burning of organic waste, hydrogen, and even the internal heat of the Earth can be used as alternative sources of energy. However, it may not be so easy to implement considering that the solar panels and wind turbines would be in every home. All cars would run on hydrogen instead of gasoline. A Green Peace would greatly reduce its activities.

Of course, compared to fossil fuels, alternative energy has two major pluses renewability of resources and absence of negative environmental impact. However, there are disadvantages. Solar and wind power plants require a specific location at a sufficiently large area and are highly dependent on weather conditions. In addition, the production of solar panels is very harmful to the environment due to its toxicity. Wind turbines create a lot of noise, vibration, adversely affecting the fauna. Also, the energy output of wind turbines is very uneven, which also creates some inconvenience. As for hydrogen, it almost does not occur in pure form. Its industrial production negates the environmental benefits. When it combined with oxygen it gives explosive reaction, which makes it a dangerous type of fuel. Burning biomass has been circulated long time as a way to generate heat. Nevertheless, if the wood, sawdust, shavings are standard sources of energy, than agricultural waste, human waste and specially grown plants will be the source of energy not so long. However, this method of energy has a big effect on the environment. This can be explained by the fact that the burning of all these substances gives a lot of heat, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. So this kind of energy also has huge disadvantages.

The expression "Clean coal technologies" at first glance seems absurd and even makes some skeptics smiling. We got used to the coal as the dirtiest source of energy, which causes a lot of damage to our planet. It affects not only the air but also the ground. Some countries have been forced to listen to the demands of the popular movements for ecology. They are very serious and are going to force the government to abandon coal completely. However, in the coming years, this prospect is unlikely since most of the energy production is based on the combustion of this fuel. In recent years, on the International Conferences representatives of the United States and Europe have talked a lot about clean coal technology. It allows the power plants to use coal with minimal damage to the environment. In recent years, the technology of integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) is discussed widely. In this process, the synthesis gas obtained from coal, processed steam and compressed air or oxygen, cleaned of contaminants and combusted in a gas turbine for thermal power generation. IGCC allows almost entirely prevent the penetration of air pollutants and provides high fuel efficiency by more than 50%.

However, representatives of Green Peace do not recognize the technology clean because the clean burning of coal emits huge amounts of carbon dioxide. This, as we know, leads to the destruction of the ozone layer. In the first decade of the 21st century, a new technology has appeared due to which it is possible to capture carbon and prevent its release to the environment. This process is truly clean. However, manufacturers are faced with a very important issue. Cost of construction IGCC blocks in terms of kilowatts were 1.2-1.5 times higher than conventional coal-fired blocks of the same capacity and were 2.5-3 times higher than that of combined cycle power plants. Their operation also proved to be more complex and costly than conventional thermal power plant units. In 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, both units were idled in 6-8 times more than is provided for industry standards. In addition, the project to create new blocks faced a number of difficulties. The main problems arise with the disposal of captured carbon dioxide. The proposed solutions for its injection into underground reservoirs greatly increase the cost of the process, making it totally uneconomic. That is why building of new IGCC-blocks in the U.S. was discontinued. According to the most optimistic forecasts, quite effective technology to remove carbon dioxide will be no earlier than in 2020. Experts believe that the profitability can be created only artificially through the introduction of high charges for carbon emissions. However, the manufacturers are against these measures, in spite of all efforts of Green Peace. Thus, coal, no matter how clean it is, will still cause dissatisfaction among conservationists.

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The first deposits of shale gas have been discovered in the U.S. in 1821. Then William Hart drilled the first commercial well the in state of New York. Large-scale commercial production of gas was started by company Devon Energy. After several years, the company has gained a lot of attention to itself, when drilled the first horizontal well in the world. Due to the huge increase in performance of gas, media called the new technology "gas revolution". In 2009, the U.S. became the world leader in gas production (745.3 billion cu m.), surpassing even Russia. In that time, when over 40% were non-traditional sources such as coal bed methane and shale gas. After the appearance of shale gas, prices on the world market began to fall. In 2009, shale gas production in the U.S. accounted for 14% of the fuel gas, which has led to significant changes in the distribution of the world market of fuel and gas between countries due to excess supply in the market by early 2010. By the beginning of 2012, the price of natural gas in the U.S. fell to a level significantly below the cost of production of shale gas. Therefore, some of the leading companies for gas became on the verge of bankruptcy.

However, there are a number of documentaries on the impact of shale gas production in the U.S. Poisoned water wells, toxic air emissions, destruction of domestic and wild animals, humans' diseases; this is not a complete list of problems, which are results of production of shale gas. The debates about the dangers and benefits of this type of fuel are maintained by many countries. France is the head of the states, which insist on banning this technology because it is too risky. France was first, who said "no" to survey and shale gas production nationwide. Several other European countries also imposed a moratorium to prove safety technologies for extracting shale gas.

Nuclear energy is important. For example, in military applications, the energy of the fission of uranium or plutonium used in atomic bombs, nuclear missiles, and mines. Fusion energy is used in the hydrogen bomb. For peaceful purposes, it is used at power plants to generate electricity and heat. Nuclear fission is the basis of engine icebreakers, submarines, and nuclear aircraft carriers. The energy released during radioactive decay is used in long-lived source. Even planetary probes use radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Nuclear power is by far the best way to produce electricity. Of course, this energy cannot be an alternative, but the peaceful atom is advantageous in terms of efficiency. The environmental component in the nuclear energy is much higher than in the other energetic technologies.

Over 40 years of nuclear power’s existence in the world, there were built about 400 units in 26 countries, with a total generating capacity of about 300 million kilowatts. High final profitability and lack of emissions of combustion products are the main advantages of nuclear energy. From this point of view, it can be considered as clean. The main disadvantage is the potential danger of radioactive contamination of the environment with fission products of nuclear fuel and the problem of processing spent nuclear fuel. In forecasting the prospects of nuclear power, people need to consider some facts. There are limited resources of natural uranium, high cost of capital construction of NPP plant compared to the CHP, the negative public opinion, which led to the adoption of laws restricting the nuclear energy in the United States in the right to use a number of technologies. At the same time, the presence of a large supply of already mined and enriched uranium and plutonium released in the nuclear warheads, the presence of the expanded reproduction technology, where the fuel discharged from the reactor contains more fissile material than downloading. It removes the problem of limited resources of natural uranium and increases the possibility of nuclear energy to 200-300 Q. In turn, this fact exceeds the resources of fossil fuels, so we can form the foundation of world energy by 200-300 years.

 
 
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Today, experts recognize that nuclear energy is the only real and substantial source of providing power of humanity in the long term, which does not cause such negative effects on the planet as the greenhouse effect, acid rain, etc. This indicates the need to increase the contribution of nuclear energy. From the above-mentioned, we can conclude that the prospects for the development of nuclear energy in the U.S. will be different for different regions, based on the need for electricity, scale area, the availability of reserves of fossil fuels, availability of financial resources for the construction and operation of such an expensive technology, the influence of public opinion in the country and a number of other reasons.

Each of the types of alternative energy has many opponents who have very convincing counterarguments. World leader considering alternative energy is the U.S. It produces more than 100 billion kWh of renewable energy annually. The International Energy Agency in its scenario predicts that the world will receive 14% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020. Alternative energy can replace traditional only in terms of distributed energy, in the case to keep the central power supply is expensive. There are many resources of sun, wind and bio-resources in these places, and they will be more effective.

Around the year of 2050, the U.S. will be able to completely switch to alternative energy sources. Reliable supply network, which take electricity from solar factories, wind turbines, hydro and biomass processing and underwater turbines will lead to the country no longer need the dirty coal and the dubious atom. Transition to alternative energy sources will ensure energy security of the country. Of course, there is a climatic moment. At last year's summit in Copenhagen, the world was agreed do not prevent the growth of the average temperature of more than two degrees by 2100. To increase the power of "green" energy to 2050 is not enough to reach the desired goal. We need to develop laws that facilitate the dissemination and application of technologies that are available now. In addition, you have to prepare measures that complicate the construction of new coal-fired and other power plants. People talk about the high cost of traditional, renewable energy sources. But today, alternative energy has become cheaper. After 2011, it competes with traditional prices. For example, a 2011 report of the Commission on Public Service of California, from which it follows that the state signed a contract in 2012 to supply power to the owners of the solar power plant of 500 MW at a price lower than the gas industry. The transition to renewable energy sources will be immediate.

Energy demand in the world is satisfied by the following sources: oil - 44%, natural gas - 26%, coal - 25%, nuclear energy - 2.4%, hydraulic energy - 2.5%, alternative energy - 0.2%. Thus, oil is the main source of providing people with energy. According to some reports, oil provides 48% of energy needs of humanity. The auto industry is almost entirely provided by gasoline produced by refining crude oil. While the U.S. could produce enough oil to provide the entire country, they prefer to buy the raw material from other countries. It is natural for as long as the price of the imported resource is less than the price of the extracted one independently. Arab countries that supply oil are doing everything to raise prices. This is currently the most powerful tool of economic pressure on the United States.

Achievements of the U.S. in energy efficiency is the result of years of effort considering the organization of energy saving. In general, these efforts were built not on coercion, but on the interest. During last years, impressive results have been achieved. The U.S. government prepares the new programs for energy efficiency. The government plans to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and also to make develop and implement energy-saving technologies for buildings, homes, transportation, energy, industry. To ensure the realization of these goals within the U.S. Department of Energy was created by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This management should perform some basic tasks. First, strengthen U.S. energy security and achieve a positive impact on the quality of the environment. Then, it must ensure the economic viability of public-private partnerships, which are aimed at improving efficiency and productivity, introduction of clean, reliable and affordable energy technologies, the introduction of alternative energy sources, providing a higher quality of life. The U.S. budget was considered in relation to the impressive resources that devoted to the creation of interest in the use of energy-efficient equipment and technologies. In 2009, there was spent of $ 2.2 billion from the budget for this purpose.

Benefits of biofuel are well known. After all, you can make biofuel from a variety of organic materials. This means that the development of bio-energy, in contrast to other types of alternative energy sources, is possible in any region or country in the world, regardless of climate or topography. In addition, the production of biofuel will help to solve the problems associated with disposal of debris. This means that there are real prospects of solving a very important problem, which has been a concern of many scientists for a long time, politicians and ordinary people around the world. Now the garbage, which posed a threat to environmental safety of the planet and was a headache many earthlings, can be invaluable.

Apart from the obvious advantages, there are drawbacks of bioenergy. Thus, many scientists fear the destruction of forests and environmental damage. At the same time, according to some researchers, the mass cultivation of plants for the production of biofuel can destroy the fertile land and cause hunger in many third world countries. It is understood by many, and all of these factors inhibit the development of bioenergy. Of course, these deficiencies are serious and require a thorough investigation.

   

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